Question: My shares of 3Com Corp. are going nowhere but down. Any thoughts about their future? — F.C., via the Internet

Answer: The data-networking-equipment manufacturer and its investors must cope with the harsh reality that an attractive $2.2 billion buyout offer for the company was dropped.

Private-equity firm Bain Capital Partners LLC and its Chinese partner, Huawei Technologies Co., withdrew their bid with the explanation that the U.S. government intended to block it on national security concerns.

Among its numerous businesses, 3Com sells anti-hacking and other network security services to the U.S. Defense Department. The government apparently had feared that technology information could be leaked to China because of Huawei's 16.5 percent stake in the firm.

After the withdrawal news, 3Com shareholders nonetheless approved the proposal in order to seek a $66 million breakup fee on the legal grounds that Bain's rejection was invalid.

3Com sells data networking equipment to small and medium-size businesses, including network switches, wireless LAN access points, shared hubs, DSL routers, security software and network jacks. It faces fierce competition in virtually all of its businesses, with Cisco Systems Inc. a particularly strong competitor.

Shares of 3Com (COMS) are down 45 percent this year, following a gain of 10 percent last year and 14 percent in 2006. The firm had a net loss of $7.8 million in its third fiscal quarter that ended in February

Indication of the importance of China to 3Com is the fact that new Chief Executive Robert Mao, who was appointed in late April, is based in that country. This emphasizes the firm's growing and profitable business operations and joint ventures there.

Mao, 64, is a director and a former 3Com executive who lately has been an aggressive purchaser of the company's shares. The firm also hired Tropos Networks Inc. President Ronald Sege, 51, as chief operating officer. He is based in the U.S.

Experts believe that 3Com, once dominant in networking, outsourced too many services and overemphasized the small-business sector. It also got caught in the tech market plummet. It has shrunk and is struggling to get its cost structure in line with its smaller base. Top management turnover has been high.

Earnings are expected to rise 26 percent in the fiscal year that ends in May 2009. The forecast of a five-year annualized growth rate of 10 percent compares with the 15 percent increase expected for its peers.

Question: I have shares of Fidelity Trend Fund, which don't seem all that great. Should I hold on? — R.C., via the Internet

Answer: The most important recent event at this 50-year-old fund was the naming of Jeffrey Feingold as portfolio manager just over a year ago.

Feingold, who succeeded with several other Fidelity funds, has switched the fund away from its prior benchmark, the Standard & Poor's 500 index.

He shifted its focus to the Russell 1000 Growth index, which meant unloading some of its stodgier holdings in favor of true growth stocks.

The $995 million Fidelity Trend Fund (FTRNX) has a 12-month gain of 2 percent and a three-year annualized return of 9 percent, both of which rank in the top one-fourth of large growth funds.

"Because I don't see any huge reason to purchase this fund over and above several other Fidelity large-cap growth funds, I do not recommend it," said Jim Lowell, editor of the independent Fidelity Investor newsletter in Needham, Mass. "It is hard for Fidelity managers to outperform even their own peer group at Fidelity, and this fund simply doesn't do that."

The inherent weakness of the fund's concept, in Lowell's eyes, is that determining what constitutes a trend is left entirely to the assessment of the portfolio manager. That uncertain interpretation is especially drawn into question when the managers change, as has happened with some frequency at the fund.

"Shareholders are at the whim of whatever the current manager thinks is a trend," Lowell said.

Feingold builds a portfolio of about 100 stocks whose earnings he believes can provide some positive surprises. He looks closely at insider buying and selling trends. He has about one-fourth of the fund in foreign stocks.

Technology hardware, industrial materials and health care are the three largest concentrations in the portfolio. Its top stock holdings were recently Monsanto Co., Cisco Systems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., Inverness Medical Innovations Inc., Microsoft Corp., McDonald's Corp., Google Inc., Applied Materials Inc., Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. and Molson Coors Brewing Co.

This "no-load" (no sales charge) fund requires a $2,500 minimum initial investment and has an annual expense ratio of 0.83 percent.

Question: What is the best way to transfer money from one bank certificate of deposit to another bank's CD? Can I somehow get the money moved easily from one institution to another without paying a fee? — D.H., via the Internet

Answer: A real-time method of immediately transferring funds between two financial institutions is the wire transfer. But it usually requires a fee of around $20.

"A wire transfer is the best way because it is so simple, easy and quick," said Greg McBride, financial analyst with Bankrate.com in North Palm Beach, FlAnswer:

You also could go to your bank to obtain a cashier's check for the amount and take it to another bank. But many people move the money to a distant bank or brokerage-offered CD, McBride said, so that hands-on method doesn't always work so well.

Finally, there is free transfer through the Automated Clearing House, which stores transactions received and processes them in batches before connecting the information of the two banks. This can have a time lag of up to two or three days and, therefore, may not be the best choice if you are trying to move the CD money quickly before it automatically rolls over, McBride said.


Andrew Leckey answers questions only through the column. Address inquiries to Andrew Leckey, P.O. Box 874702, Tempe, AZ 85287-4702, or by e-mail at [email protected]